This week on Barbell Shrugged we are joined by the incomparable Travis Mash, high level strength coach, world champion powerlifter, and to be honest, one of our absolute favorite human beings in the entire world.
If Travis’ name sounds familiar it’s for a good reason. This is his second appearance on the show. The first time around on episode 97 we got the chance to talk about the barbell and all of the life lessons it has taught us. As good as that show was, I think that round two is even better. Really, this might be our best strength discussion to date.
For me it’s easy to see what makes Travis such an incredible coach. First, he is incredibly kind and empathetic. Right when you meet him you feel like you’ve known him all along. And when you see his work you realize just how important it is for a coach to build strong relationships with their athletes. That connection makes extraordinary strength possible.
He’s kind, but he’s also been around for a really long-time (it’s OK, we’re all getting older together). He’s performed at a very high level in both weightlifting and powerlifting for many years, has even made a run at national level bobsledding. More impressive still, he’s been coaching athletes and directly applying that hard-earned wisdom for over fifteen years. So, when Travis makes a recommendation on how you can get stronger, you listen.
This show was running over with but nuggets and pearls, but a few super useful lessons jump right out at me. First, competitive fitness athletes still have a lot they could learn from powerlifters and bodybuilders. One of the best examples is the row. Above any other assistance movement, this is what the average Crossfitter needs most of all. Barbell rows, chest supported rows, one-arm pulls with a super-duper heavy kettlebell, any kind will do. It hardly matters, as long as they are done often. Forget what you’ve heard, there’s nothing more functional than adding pulling power.
Lessons, lessons, how about the importance of patience? If there’s one key mistake that’s keeping a lot of people weak it’s this – They don’t give the adaptations time to set in! They start out on a mission to get strong, because that’s what they need most of all. But they freak out when results don’t come immediately, or when their WOD times fall off a little bit.
This is all by design.
Real strength takes time. As Travis will tell you it’s a lot like working a blue collar job, like a construction gig. At first the work is just too much. You’ll hate it, no doubt. Recovery will be a struggle. You will feel like shit while everyone around you runs around like the work is no big deal. That’s when you need to hold on and be patient.
The secret to getting really, super-duper strong is allowing that adaptation to take hold. You have to fight for it. The training should be really hard, but just like a bulletproof and sun-hardened construction worker, you need time to get used to it.
Be patient! Find great programming and stick with it, don’t jump around. You will get faster, more efficient, and strong as hell as soon as you earn it. You just can’t be afraid of walking through hell first. Take your ass-beatings first, that’s the only way this critical and enduring adaptation can take hold.
The final lesson for those looking to get really strong is this – you have to conquer the fear of lifting really heavy weights. You have to have the courage to put weight on that barbell. That’s why having a great coach like Travis is so important. You need someone, as he would say, “…To call you out when you’re being pussy.” You also need to surround yourself with great training partners who are much stronger than you, just to change your standards.
If there’s a secret to training at a place like Westside Barbell it’s just that. Programming matters. You need certain tools and ideas. But never underestimate the power of a brutal training environment. These place are less like gym and more like iron forges. The whole point is to raise the expectations under pressure.
That’s also the whole idea behind Travis’ top secret chain squatting program. There’s actually no secret to it. It works because it breaks down the fear. You start to get used to the way really heavy weight feels, and in time you start to believe that you can actually lift it. Once that belief starts you begin to train harder and without artificial limitations. And once that happens, watch out. There’s no telling what you might be able to lift.
For more from Travis Mash and the coaching services he offers make sure to check out his website atMashElite.com,
Travis, we’re lucky to know you, dude. When can we go for round 3?
P.S. You should be fired up and ready crush some heavy squats at the gym. That’s great! But before you go make sure to also check out this week’s brand new episode of TechniqueWOD, which is all about correctly spot the squat. Hey, going heavy is cool, but you don’t want to be caught second guessing yourself when you or your buddy get stapled to the gym floor by a heavy barbell.